If you’re gonna dream, dream big.

Lee W. Olson of Huntington Beach clearly feels the ballot initiative process is his opportunity to have his vision of government writ large upon California – even if that vision involves a wholesale reworking of large swaths of public policy.

The Secretary of State’s office last week cleared three Olson-authored initiatives for petition circulation. In an age when lengthy, complex legislation is considered by many to be the devil’s work, Olson has kept each of his measures to a single, tidy paragraph.

One measure would eliminate state income and property taxes for all Californians 55 and older; the Legislative Analyst’s Office and the Department of Finance estimate this would mean a $15 billion-per-year hit to the state budget, and $5 billion to $10 billion more for local governments.

A second measure would prohibit property, sales or income taxes from being used to fund California’s public schools, colleges and universities, or to buy textbooks for grades one through eight. K-12 and higher education now account for about 32 percent of California’s General Fund spending, about $38 billion. “The only remaining sources of revenue would be from the state lottery, student fees, and the federal government,” the Legislative Analyst’s Office found. “Absent any new sources of revenues, public education programs would only be a fraction of their current size.”

And a third would change the state constitution to give parents or legal guardians the sole authority and responsibility to set their children’s educational curricula, not to be usurped by state and local governments. Simplicity might not have been Olson’s friend on this one, as the LAO seemed stumped about what it might actually mean.

Olson has until April 23 to gather valid signatures from 694,354 registered voters for each of these measures in order to put them on next year’s ballot. But I’m guessing… no.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • John W

    This is why the signature hurdle for getting an initiative on the ballot should be much higher. Like 10% of all registered voters, whether they voted in the last election or not.

    As for the business of no property or income taxes for people over 55, what is it about our society that we think, once you hit a certain age, you hit the jackpot and should be entitled to a bunch of freebies regardless of your financial status?

  • John M

    The above comment is typical of go along get along wannabe elite opinion. Yes leave it to the wise mandarins and scribes who have ushered in this era of untold glory.

    These initiatives are no worse, and actually quite a bit better than the bilge that issues forth from Sacramento nearly daily. It is indeed time to shift power away from the grandees in Sacramento and back to individuals where it belongs. And what’s worse is that much of the time, this elected scum hides its decisions by empowering unaccountable regulatory agencies to do the rulemaking. The result is unacceptable control over aspects of our lives that are far outside the proper role of government. We are adults and are capable of making adult decisions in all aspects of our lives. I do not intend to spend any more of my life being “governed” by this element. We need more initiatives like these. Government in a free society must again be relegated to no greater role of societal control than that exercised by the landscaper or janitor over his employer.

  • Elwood

    “I do not intend to spend any more of my life being “governed” by this element.”

    Won’t you please share with us how you intend to accomplish this grandiose scheme?

  • John M.

    Won’t you please share with us how you intend to accomplish this grandiose scheme?

    I don’t see getting more involved at the grass roots level here in California and working now to support candidates as being particularly grandiose, unless you are implying that outsiders should stay outside and leave the halls of power to the bloated mandarins and their hangers-on. Yeah that’s worked pretty well up to now, hasn’t it. I will support with time and money candidates in local and state races who are (i) a bit less married to the notion of permanent office, and (ii)more supportive of the idea of enlarging the individual and shrinking the government. Pretty freekin grandiose, ne pas?

    I think that serving in any legislature has a corrupting effect the longer one remains in power. Certainly the way our nearly permanent incumbents have it set up now, with very favorable treatment of incumbents and double standards for money and gifts among other things, it is highly tempting to do what is necessary to stay on in power indefinitely. But it seems to me that we have a terrible mess here, mostly because regular people who pay the bills did not pay attention through all those good years when we were working, raising families and things were going well.

    Most importantly, we are breaking into a two-class society, composed of government and non-government and it appears to me that the balance of power is seriously in favor of government, but the end appears to be mostly ensuring continued incumbency.